A Well-Nourished Life From the Perspective of a Wife, Mom & Life Coach

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Whitney Post Ottos is a dear friend whom I have referred to before on this blog. She is a consistent source of authenticity and encouragement to me, frequently helping me to look at life and various challenges from a refreshing perspective. I am honored to share her perspective on a Well-Nourished Life as a wife, mom and Life Coach. I hope you enjoy her inspiring thoughts as much as I have!

Soup & Salad Challenge: Week 5

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We are coming to the end of the soup portion of the Soup & Salad Challenge right on time (at least for New Englanders). The temperature has spiked to nearly 90 degrees this week. Hello, early Summer! We’re ending on a high note: Nourishing Foundations’ recipe for Caribbean Chili. The sweet potato in this recipe gives it a surprisingly sweet note, especially when corn is also used. If, however, you are following the Whole 30 diet, you will want to make a few adaptations to this recipe: replace beans with extra sweet potato & omit the corn. Still totally delish! Enjoy!

Nourishing Foundations' Caribbean Chili

This hearty meal has a little bit of spice as well as a sweet touch. It’s a filling, tasty dish and makes an excellent meal for company!

  • 2 TBSP Olive Oil or Avocado Oil
  • 1 lb Ground Beef (chicken, turkey or buffalo Unless you prefer the vegetarian version, in which case, omit!)
  • 3 TBSP Esther's Caribbean Chili (or Chili Powder of choice)
  • 1 tsp. Esther's Red Hot Pepper (or hot pepper of choice)
  • 2 tsp Esther's West Indian Pepper (or pepper of choice)
  • 1 TBSP Esther's G.O.G.
  • 2 cloves Garlic minced
  • 14 oz Mirepoix (or 2 stalks celery, 2 carrots)
  • 1 TBSP Chicken or Vegetable base (Rapunzel works well)
  • 1/4 cups Water or chicken broth
  • 1.5 cups Chopped Sweet Potato
  • 3-4 cups Beans of Choice (Cooked; Replace with sweet potato if following Paleo/Whole 30 diet)
  • 24 oz Tomato Sauce or Crushed Tomatoes High quality (no sugar added, whole ingredients (we recommend (Victoria's or Rao's))
  • 28 oz Diced tomatoes (Organic is best!)
  • 12-16 oz Frozen sweet corn (Omit if following Paleo/Whole 30 diet)
  1. To Make on Stovetop:

    Heat oil in frying pan. Cook mirepoix for 2-3 minutes, add meat, then spices.

    Cook completely. (~5 min)

    Add 1/4 cup water & allow to simmer

    In large pot, combine this mixture with ~4 cups beans or sweet potatoes, tomato sauce and diced tomatoes. Allow to simmer, stirring frequently, for approx. 10 min.

    Add frozen corn.

    Serve with cheese, avocado, sour cream etc.

To Cook in Instant Pot:

Using the sauté function on your Instant Pot, heat oil, then cook mirepoix for 2-3 minutes.

Add meat, then spices. Cook completely. (~5 min)

Add all other ingredients EXCEPT for corn.

Secure lid and set Instant Pot to 40 minutes on manual.

Allow for natural pressure release

Add corn at end.

Since I only made one meal this week, I had a little bit of extra time to mess around with a good and good-for-you dessert. This Avocado Chocolate Mousse by Food52 is UHmazing. I love it! Definitely worth a try.

Hope you enjoy these recipes as much as I did this week!

Spring Soup & Salad Challenge Week 4

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It has been a wonderful week, jam-packed with fun, friends and food (which I’ll get to in this post, I promise). One of the highlights included hosting Steve and Susan Vinton, founders of Village School International, while they were here in the Boston area. Back in 2008 I taught with Village Schools and lived in the little village of Sawala, Tanzania. My husband and I returned there in 2012, for a short visit.

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As I reminisced with Steve and Susan, I was reminded of the rich hospitality displayed in Tanzanian culture, particularly around food. Following is a blog post I wrote ten years ago (!) while living in Sawala:

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A Snapshot of Life in TZ

This morning (Sunday) I was too lazy to start a fire and make breakfast. I opted instead to take a three-minute walk up the road to Mama Shemaya’s duka (roadside shop) where I thought I might be able to buy a cup of chai (tea) and mandazi (fried bread). I set out, Starbucks travel mug in hand, planning to be back to the house within a few minutes. Unfortunately, Mama Shemaya had no tea and no mandazi. I decided to walk a bit further in hopes of finding breakfast somewhere else. Soon I ran into one of my students, Tatu, on the road. She saw the Starbucks travel mug I was carrying and asked where I was going. When I explained my situation, she adamantly exclaimed, “I will make tea for you. Go, get mandazi and when you return, come to my house.” A polite decline wasn’t happening, so I promised to return with mandazi for both of us to share over chai at her house.

Shortly after saying goodbye to Tatu, I came to a mama selling soup on the side of the road. A few minutes later I found myself sitting in her living room slurping soup. After finishing and thanking this mama, I continued on my journey and came to Mama Henry’s house, where she was selling mandazi. But simply buying mandazi and leaving was not an option. Mama Henry gave me a big hug and invited me into her home. I tried “my level best” (as they often say around here) to communicate in Swahili to Mama Henry that I was happy to see her but couldn’t stay because I needed to return to my student’s home. She wouldn’t hear of it. After a short visit I purchased two pieces of mandazi; Mama Henry gave me three pieces. I thanked her and was on my way.

I finally arrived at Tatu’s “ghetto” (rented room where she and another student live) where she, her roommate and I talked and enjoyed tea and mandazi together. I couldn’t help but notice the 2004 calendar that hung on the wall as a decoration. When I was ready to leave, Tatu made sure my travel mug was filled with tea to take home. She and Mainess then “escorted” me on my walk home. I arrived back at the house around 9:30am. My three-minute jaunt up the road had turned into an hour and a half excursion. The level of hospitality in this culture never ceases to amaze me!

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It’s hard to believe that ten years have passed from this time. One thing, I’m sure, has not changed: the continual sense of welcome that is displayed in everyone you meet. No need to “schedule” a visit; just drop by. A simple “hodi” (May I come in?) will always be followed by, “Karibu!” (You are welcome!)

I long to create this sense of welcome in my home, too. There’s nothing like a cup of hot soup on a rainy day to do the trick…

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This week I found two delicious gems:

  1. Mel over at A Virtual Vegan will make your taste buds dance with her simple, tasty, nutrient dense recipe for Creamy Coconut Carrot Ginger Soup. I’ve used this recipe on numerous occasions and I’m delighted every time. The only changes I made were adding garlic, because it’s so darn good for you! 
  2. Kristi Barnes, who blogs at Farmstead Chick, offers this healthy and lip-smacking good Whole 30 version of Zuppa Toscana. My one recommendation? Use Butcher Box Breakfast Sausage. It doesn’t get any better and you KNOW the meat is humanely raised with no antibiotics or hormones.

Give these recipes a try and be sure to let me know what you think!

Spring Soup & Salad Challenge: Week 3

I’m a little jealous of my friends who got to spend the week in FL. I’ll let you in on a text exchange today:

Yep, you read that correctly: we had snow this week. Actual flakes coming down AS I WAS DELIVERING SOUP to friends. And while I am more than ready for Spring-like weather, I must admit, Thursday was actually the perfect day for soup. It was cold, raw, rainy/snowy mix… a lovely day to curl up with a warm bowl of some hearty, filling, deliciousness.

Here’s what we tried this week: Dara over at Cookin’ Canuck has a delicious recipe for Hearty Chicken Stew. I am a horrible Italian and for some reason, I don’t care for olives, so I left them out. Other than that, I LOVE this recipe. It’s the kind of soup I can feed my husband and know that he won’t be complaining in an hour that he’s hungry again…

In case you were wondering, this shot was taken on Wednesday (my cooking day) when it actually kind of felt like Spring, so my favorite “Taste Testers” ate outside. My hubs had been on the Carnivore Diet (more on that in a future post), which basically entails eating only meat and animal products. It’s kind of radical and he could only take it for about a week before we decided he needed to include some low carb veggies. All this to say, he was RAVING about this soup. It could have been due to deprivation, but I think it might be just that good.

And then there’s the Vegan Broccoli Cheese Soup from Bites of Wellness. If it wasn’t obvious from the previous paragraph, we’re NOT Vegan and yet, this is one of my favorite healthy soup recipes — especially if you are going dairy free. I don’t think I have ever come across a recipe that does such a great job of creating that creamy, cheesy flavor without actually adding cheese or some over-processed substitute. Seriously good stuff here.

Both of these recipes have become regular favorites in my repertoire. They’re easy to put together, filled with nutrition from the whole food ingredients, and taste great. Give them a try and let me know what you think!

Also, don’t forget: you can enter to win Esther’s Seasonings Variety Pack by participating in the Spring Soup & Salad Challenge in any capacity over the course of the remaining 6 weeks. (Yep – that includes taste testing!) Your participation will be tracked by comments on blog posts. For every comment, your name will be entered into the “hat” (more comments = more chances to win)! Hope to hear from you!

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A Well-Nourished Life from the Perspective of a Registered Dietitian

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What does a well-nourished life look like for you as a wife, mom & R.D.?

This year has been a journey back to a well-nourished life for me, as I have transitioned from working full time outside of the home (as an RD in the world of Food Service Management), to working full time within the home, caring for my young children. And it has been more of a challenge than I expected! Perhaps, if I’m honest, in part because my expectations of what a well-nourished life looks like, have changed. This journey has prompted me to pause and realize a well-nourished life looks different in each of the seasons of life. Simply pausing is a good start to a well-nourished life in my experience!

Ultimately, for me, a well-nourished life is centered on nourishing my body, mind and soul.

Care for the body is important for many reasons. Three key elements: eating, exercising, and sleeping – all significantly impact how we function, and at least for me, also influence my emotional and mental health.

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As a Registered Dietitian, I am naturally a supporter of healthy eating. The evidence and health benefits of a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes, nuts and seeds, lean meats/protein and avoidance of processed foods – continues to grow. But that’s not to say enjoying some chips or your favorite ice cream should be avoided at all costs. Balance is key. Learning to listen to our bodies is key. I have strived to help teach my kids (ages 2 & 6) to listen to their bodies when it comes to hunger and satiety. I have had some proud mama moments when my 6-year-old stops eating a cinnamon roll or cake as he feels full or suspects more will make him not feel well. This self-regulation is so important to learn and I strive to encourage it. All members of my family get “hangry” when we are hungry or beyond the point of hungry….and the anger starts to flare! So regular eating times are crucial for us to avoid this. Plus, fueling our bodies with nutrient dense foods supports energy for keeping active.

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Exercise and activity have tremendous benefits for our body. In addition to muscle strength and disease prevention, it boosts our mood as well. Even though getting to the gym is not feasible on a daily basis right now, I do prioritize 3 designated gym days and it so helps center and focus myself throughout the week. The other days I strive to just move my body as much as possible through my normal day. Playing with and chasing my very active kids, vacuuming, grocery shopping, etc. My kids actually love to join me in exercise so we often do push ups or jumping jacks or simply have a dance party to get our hearts booming (as my kids say)!

My eating fuels my exercise and my exercise supports my sleep quality. Sleep is an area I am personally striving to get more of! I recently decided to set a goal bedtime, which is a challenge sometimes (most days!). The evening when the kids are asleep is the quiet and calm time of the day, where I typically enjoy a few moments with my husband, watch a show, or catch up on the long list of to-dos (uninterrupted by the needs of the kids). In the end though, listening to our bodies when it comes to eating, exercising and sleeping is critical. Sometimes running that extra mile after you had a poor night of sleep may not be the best idea. Check in with your body. It will often have something to say.

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Care for the mind is also so vital. This one has become more apparent to me upon my recent transition to working full time caring for my family in the home. I love being home with my kids and managing the home front. But my mind needs a challenge. For me, in this season, that has been reading both personal and professional education books/articles or listening to a podcast or webinar on a new topic of interest. I have a list of books (another to-do list) to read, as reading more is a personal goal of mine (it is going slowly, but remains a goal!).

I’m currently reading Liturgy of the Ordinary by Tish Harrison Warren and Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brené Brown. Both are very encouraging and thought provoking for me in this season. Nutrition Action is a favorite newsletter I subscribe to, put out by the Center for Science in the Public Interest. It is a great resource for science based health and nutrition advice and it’s unbiased.

Care for the soul is, without a doubt, a necessity too. This can look different each day or week, but for me, finding quiet moments for time in prayer or reflection and intentional gratitude are key for nourishing the soul.

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Practicing gratitude has been a tremendous way to keep my mind and soul focused on the positive and helped minimize anxious thoughts or getting discouraged depending on what is happening in life. For me, reflecting each night on the day, taking a moment to says thanks, and letting go of any regrets or things I could have communicated and handled better, is helpful as I lay my head to rest. Each morning starts with a moment of thanks for a new day; it is typically very brief as my daughter calls my name. But the quiet moment of thanks nourishes the soul; instills life and joy as a new day unfolds.

Nourishing the soul has also come through life in community for me. I have found such comfort, support and joy from my dear group of friends, many of who are fellow moms. Prioritizing time in community, whether at a play date, school function, or church gathering (whatever it may be), has been so nourishing this past year!

From your perspective, what is one thing busy moms can do to increase a sense of health and happiness?

Speak kindly to yourself and extend yourself grace. There is only one of you and you are uniquely made and have a purpose!

We live in a culture that promotes the message that we are never enough, perpetuates the treadmill of constant striving to complete our to-do list(s), and urges self-sufficiency through a seemingly silent fear or judgment if you, God forbid, need help. But, if we are honest, the list is never completed. The notorious invisible bar is always being raised higher. So how do we find sustenance in the midst of daily chaos life?

For me, combating this cycle and demanding culture, entails finding the delicate balance of allowing others to support me (yes its true) and supporting one another. Knowing when to say yes and when to say no. Advocating for what I need and what my family needs, or does not need in some cases.

I just mentioned how being active and exercising is a key component in my view of a well-nourished life. While it certainly is, I recently had a season of life where exercise was not feasible for many reasons. For a while I had the mindset that I was not caring for my body and carried the guilt and unkindness toward myself each day. But when I was honest with myself and acknowledged that sacrificing even more sleep or time with my kids was a bigger detriment, I decided to extend myself grace and let it go. Rather than focusing on whether or not I had exercised that day, I considered it a bonus if it happened. I worked in other small forms of activity. It may not seem like much, but simply letting go, extending myself grace in this area, made a huge impact on my overall sense of health and happiness.

Do you have a favorite recipe you would be willing to share?

Absolutely! I have a passion for baking and these are a cookie favorite!

Aunt Sandy’s Chocolate Chip Cookies with Pudding

1 ½ cup margarine or butter
¾ cup white sugar
¾ cup brown sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 package instant vanilla pudding
1 package chocolate chips

Cream margarine and sugar. Add eggs and vanilla. Add dry ingredients. Mix well. Stir in chocolate chips. Bake at 350 degrees.